For questions on this post please email: Matt@expedition44.com
Matt and I lean towards an early dating for the authorship of Revelation. We are both partial preterists and see the majority of the book of Revelation being directly applied to the first century. We would agree that some of the things in the book may be foreshadows of events that will also happen later, but we aren’t looking for any of them to “need” to happen. The only thing we would squarely put as primarily future are the last two chapters in the book.
We go early largely because of (Syriac) evidence but also on 8-9 other points regarding the transmission of Revelation. Essentially, we see Revelation being written on the Island of Patmos around 64-68 AD by John and being handed off to a messenger to be delivered to a scribe. Some scholars believe that the letter was held up or lost for many years. Eventually it was delivered to a scribe who I think made notes before he would have presented it to the 7 churches mentioned in the “mail order.” He was essentially preaching the message to them, and I think because of the elements of 70 AD had already happened some of the content was slightly edited to better fit the message. Over the years the scribes notes often get mixed in with the text (Mark 16:9-20, John 7:53-8:11, John 21, Luke 22:17-21, Luke 22:43-44, 1 John 5:7-8, etc) When the scribe preached the content, he likely stayed a bit at each location to make sure the church received the message and answered any questions. He likely then also left a copy of the text which also would have taken some time to do. This would answer why some parts of the letter would seem to address not only persecution under Nero but also be applied to Domitian later. Statements like this often shock evangelicals to learn that the scripture may have been slightly altered by a scribe, but it was commonplace to the messengers of the time. We don’t have any of the complete original manuscripts. Matt and I will do a video on inspiration and the canon later this year.
The following points to show why we would date the writing of Revelation from 64-68 AD
#1: The Syriac
The witness of one of the most ancient versions of the New Testament is called The Syriac and the title page of the fourth-century Syriac Version, called the Peshitto, says this: “Again the revelation, which was upon the holy John the Evangelist from God when he was on the island of Patmos where he was thrown by the emperor Nero.” As we alluded to above, Nero ruled over the Roman Empire from AD 54 to AD 68.
#2: Revelation 17:10
In Revelation 17:10 we read “They are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; but when he does come, he must remain for only a little while.” This passage, which speaks of the line of rulers in Rome and tells us exactly how many rulers had already come, which one was currently in power, and that the next one would only last a short while. “Five have fallen…” Julius Caesar (49–44 BC) Augustus (27 BC–AD 14) Tiberius (AD 14–37) Caligula (AD 37–41) Claudius (AD 41–54) “One is…” Nero (AD 54–68) “the other has not yet come; but when he does come, he must remain for only a little while.” Galba (June AD 68–January AD 69, a six-month rule) Of the first seven kings, five had come (Julius Caesar, Augustus, Tiberius, Gaius, and Claudius), one was currently in power (Nero), and one had not yet come (Galba), but would only remain for a short time (six months). From this we can clearly see that the current Caesar at the time of John’s writing was the sixth Caesar, Nero.
#3: Near language
In the Introduction (rev 1:3) we read because the time is near. This would have meant very soon to those the letter was written to, not 2000 years later. The same Greek word eggus is used to describe summer coming in Matthew 24:32. There is also a Hebrew idiom in the text that goes this way, “coming on clouds” in Revelation 1:7 gives us more insight. “Lo, he doth come with the clouds, and see him shall every eye, even those who did pierce him, and wail because of him shall all the tribes of the land.” Taking the correct context of these verses according to their Hebraic meaning multiple places in the Old Testamant we would interpret “the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven” and all of the allusions to ‘clouds of heaven’ as simply the symbolic power and might of God. Here, the phrase “those who did pierce him” refers to the people of the first century. At any later time in history, these people would be deceased. Yet, according to this passage, they were expected to be alive at the time of this verse’s fulfillment. This tells us that the prophecy of Revelation 1:7 had to be fulfilled within a short time after Jesus’ death, while His accusers were still alive on earth. In other words, it was fulfilled in the destruction of. In Revelation 1:1 and 1:3, as well as 22:10 and 22:20, we find internal time indicators that declare “the time is near,” it is “shortly to come to pass,” “he is coming quickly,” and “behold, he comes speedily.” John clearly wrote that the time of judgment was close. These only fits if the book was written before the destruction of Jerusalem, and likely immediately before which would also explain the delay of the delivery. Lastly, Temple language in Revelation 11 suggests that the book was written before the destruction of AD 70.
#4: Influence of the Jews and Judaizing Heretics
let’s consider the activity of the Jewish leaders and Judaizers in the Church as mentioned in the letters to the churches in Revelation. Jesus speaks of “those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan” (Rev. 2:9). This was a clear reference to the Jewish leaders who persecuted the Christians. Also, among the Christians existed a group called the Judiazers, who tried to turn Christians back to the old covenant Jewish Law. This was a major heresy in the first century church, and Paul wrote quite a bit against it. Prior to AD 70, both the Jewish leaders outside the church and the Judiazers within the church had a strong negative impact upon believers. About them, Jesus says: I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars—I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you (Revelation 3:9). Before the AD 70 destruction, it was advantageous to be a Jew. The Jewish people had a favored relationship with Rome. They were allowed to have their own police force and follow their own Temple system, so long as they continued in subservience to the empire. But all that changed in AD 70, when the Roman army destroyed Jerusalem and killed more than a million Jews. Ever since that time, history has not been particularly kind to the Jewish people, and I think it is safe to say that after AD 70 people were not touting their status as Jews. These verses about people who falsely claimed to be Jews only makes sense in the pre–AD 70 context. Since the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, it has not been advantageous to claim to be Jewish. In this way, these verses point to an earlier dating of the letter. The first century Jews and Judaizers lost a great deal of influence after the destruction of AD 70, because the Jewish religious system had been destroyed and the Jewish population significantly diminished. Only if we give the Book of Revelation an early date of authorship does the significant presence and threat of the Jews and Judiazers make sense.
#5: John’s Appearance in AD 96
John appeared old in AD 96. Jerome noted in his writings that John was seen in AD 96, and he was so old and infirm that “he was with difficulty carried to the church, and could speak only a few words to the people.”8 We must put this fact together with Revelation 10:11, which says John must “prophesy again concerning many peoples and nations and tongues and kings.” It is difficult to imagine John would be able to speak to many nations and many kings at any date after AD 96 since he was already elderly and feeble.
#6: Timetable Comparison with Daniel/Revelation
In Daniel’s prophesy about events that would happen hundreds of years later, he was told to “roll up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end,” because it was a long way off (Dan. 12:4ff). By contrast, John was told, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this scroll, because the time is near” (Rev. 22:10). This contrast is intentional and important to the text. While Daniel was told to seal the prophecy up because it was a long way off (but still ONLY about 500 years), John was told not to seal it up because it was about to come to pass. In other words, the prophetic events were closer than 500 years.
#7: Only Seven Churches
There are only seven churches. This tells us that the book was written before the greater expansion of Christianity into that region, which occurred after the fall of Jerusalem. After 70 AD
Some of this information is gathered or adapted from “Raptureless” by Jonathan Welton. It is a very good work on preterism but, probably needless to say to most of our audience, I don’t agree with a lot of the authors take on “full preterism.”